Huseng wrote:Here is something I've been thinking about:
What value is there in reading non-Buddhist literature while the samsaric clock is ticking?
We should use our time wisely, so reading garbage, like watching garbage television, is generally unwise.
But then when it comes down to reading non-Buddhist literature, what is useful and what is garbage?
As much as I enjoyed Tolkien, I don't see the Lord of the Rings as particularly useful to overcoming samsara.
However, that being said, there is a lot of literature in history that might be useful to even the ordinary Buddhist in understanding the development of the religion in different time periods and cultures. What do I mean here? I mean in the case of India reading the Rg Veda, the Upanishads, the Ramayana and such. In the case of East Asia: Confucius, Menicus, Xunzi, Laozi, Zhuangzi and so on. I've found that sometimes there are allusions in Buddhist stuff to non-Buddhist literature that the reader of the time would have understood. In some Chinese works there are even direct quotes from Confucius to help prop up an argument the author is trying to make. Moreover, understanding the literature of a certain time and period might help to understand a particular author's thoughts, environment and background. The history is likewise essential to understanding "the big picture" in which Buddhism operates.
From that perspective, a broad reading of select non-Buddhist works is likely to benefit one's understanding of Buddhism, no?
Basically what I'm asking is if Confucius, bless his filial heart, is useful if we want to understand East Asian Buddhism better?
I would say yes. What do you think?
Yes. If we seek liberation for ourselves alone, then forget all that. If we seek to have the wisdom and means to liberate others, then often a whole heap of other stuff is very helpful.
Last night, during a lecture on Theravada Abhidhamma, our dear Prof was arguing against the notion that "an arhat is selfish". I also agree, an arhat is not selfish. He listed out four types of persons, in order:
1. Those who seek neither benefit for themselves nor the benefit of others.
2. Those who seek no benefit for themselves, but seek the benefit of others.
3. Those who seek benefit for themselves, but not the benefit of others.
4. Those who seek both benefit for themselves and benefit for others.
This is from a sutta. He was arguing that the arhat first seeks their own benefit, then that of others. Thus, they are not selfish. He also mentioned about other things that are not Dhamma per se, and said, for instance, that arhats would still have other abilities. Some may be better at expressing the Dhamma, etc. A poet who became an arhat would still be eloquent in expression.
Sounds fair enough, I thought. I also then thought that it is not necessarily the case that arhats seek benefit of others, though. So, I asked him: "For the sake of benefiting others, would those other abilities, such as expression or poetry, be useful in addition to liberation?" He conceded, "Yes, they would."
In Mahayana terms, this fourth type is the Bodhisattva who becomes a Buddha. A Buddha is also a type of arhat.
So, do we wish to be type #3 or #4?